MONTICELLO — Several Monticello City Council members liked the initial idea of making the old fire station a combination community hub, nascent art district and innovation center as proposed Monday night by a representative from White County United Way.
“We imagine a cultural showcase,” White County United Way Director Nikie Jenkinson said as she led the council and audience through the non-profit’s ideas for renovating the old station at the corner of Illinois and Washington streets.
She said the purpose of “The Station,” as an initial concept, would be to provide a makers’ space and community center to Monticello. With the spacious area the station provides, Jenkinson laid out different ideas for locations around the warehouse-like facility.
A gathering hub on the west side’s first floor could include retail offerings like a coffee bar and sandwich shop. A room for entrepreneurs to hold conference meetings would be near where the fire trucks used to sit inside. A second-floor space could be for creators to rent space where they can work, tinker and manifest their ideas into a physical reality.
None of these ideas are definite nor assured, but they may be possible, according to Jenkinson’s presentation.
She told the council the steps to renovating the space could happen nearly immediately. If everything were to go to plan, construction at the firehouse would last from the beginning of 2020 to July of 2021, with the United Way offices serving by example and moving into the facility in January.
“This is a dream,” Jenkinson said. “A vision.”
To accomplish the organization’s dream, it could use a grant provided by Indiana United Way, as well as help from the council itself.
Jenkinson said the council could help by continuing to pay for utilities in the building, as well as allow White County’s United Way offices to move there rent-free while it took charge of the renovation process.
A few council members expressed interest in the idea, with President Doug Pepple noting the organization’s enthusiasm. Monticello Mayor Ken Houston called the idea “premature,” but not unfounded, as he pointed out the very next item on the night’s agenda was simply to approve the event of appraising the building for its relative value to the city.
“I love partners,” Houston said. “I think it’s an asset waiting to be discovered.”
The council ended the discussion by taking the matter under advisement, and moments later approved the appraisal of the old fire station.